GamingBolt recently caught up with Dennis Blumenthal, the Product Manager at Kalypso Media and Benjamin Rauscher who is the Head of Studio, Realmforge Studios to get the low down on the PS4 versions of Dungeons 2.
Note: This interview was conducted before the PS4 version was launched.
Dungeon Keeper as a franchise is a classic. What prompted the desire to return to it once more with Dungeons 2?
Dennis Blumenthal: As huge fans of the Dungeon Keeper titles we always wanted to do a similar game, but with our own story and ideas – and we hoped the players would like it. The feedback on Dungeons has been ambivalent. There were players who understood that Dungeons is not (and never should be) a Dungeon Keeper clone and they liked it. And there have been many players who were disappointed by the way we did it. We decided to try again and took the best things from Dungeons and tried to melt it with the best elements of the Dungeon Keeper games – and added some cool new features to expand, but not to change the original game mechanics.
Benjamin Rauscher: For me Dungeons 2 takes in a direction that is the logical consequence of the Dungeon Keeper Franchise. Thus – and this constitutes a huge part of my motivation to build Dungeons 2 – the game establishes some very important core features that Dungeon Keeper was hinting at, but didn’t (yet) implement. Most notably: a complete hand modeled overworld to conquer and “evilfy” and direct control over an army of multiple creatures that the player raised in the dungeon.
"Dungeons 2 consists of two different games and incorporates two different control paradigms: indirect gameplay in the dungeon and direct RTS-like gameplay in the overworld."
What were the goals in the sequel? What did you learn from the development of the first Dungeons game?
Dennis Blumenthal: With Dungeons we tried to give players a Dungeon Keeper themed game with some new mechanics. But after the release of Dungeons we learned, that many players don’t want fundamental changes to the traditional gameplay mechanics, so we decided to give it a new try with Dungeons 2. This time, instead of changing we tried to enhance the mechanics from the Dungeon Keeper games. So our goals for Dungeons 2 have been: Continue the story of Dungeons, add a big pinch of traditional DK mechanics and garnish it with some new features.
The original Dungeons had some interesting mechanics that are absent in the sequel. What was the reason for going back to a more traditional Dungeon Keeper-like experience?
Dennis Blumenthal: The reason for this step was our desire to give players the game they want to play. We gave them Dungeons, they gave us feedback, we gave them Dungeons 2. That’s it.
With Dungeons 2 having released last year for PC, what are your thoughts on criticism for its RTS sections and how simplistic they felt?
Dennis Blumenthal: The RTS sections should bring more diversity into the game. Exploring the overworld was a big thing for us and we discussed this a lot, how to make this happen in the best possible way. We decided that entering and conquering the overworld should have to feel different for players compared to building your dungeon under the earth and turning this part of the game into an RTS allowed us to do many cool things.
Benjamin Rauscher: Dungeons 2 consists of two different games and incorporates two different control paradigms: indirect gameplay in the dungeon and direct RTS-like gameplay in the overworld. This approach definitively has risks and will result in a game that cannot be the most cutting edge RTS game. My point is: it also shouldn’t be. The overworld is a playground, an opportunity to use those armies trained in the dungeon and bring the fight to those nasty heroes and their appallingly good world and ultimately to completely conquer this world. As such and in my opinion the overworld part is and should be simplistic by design so that a player can satisfyingly dominate the overworld with his horde of creatures. Or taken the other way round: it would be wrong to model the overworld as a strategically challenging RTS-game demanding a high amount of actions per minute of each player to conquer it and otherwise take great losses to the creatures they lovingly nurtured in the underworld.
I do not mean to say that the criticism is unfounded and we will try to address it should we ever be in a situation to develop a sequel to Dungeons 2, but the point I like to deliver in this respect is that the overworld being simplistic contributes to a great deal to the Dungeon Keeper charm and spirit we wanted to capture in the game.
"We had to change controls and user interface quite fundamentally to make it work."
Dungeons 2 sees the Ultimate Evil split into separate pieces and there’s a larger reliance on your units than before. What kinds of twists and turns can PS4 players expect?
Wouldn’t it be boring to tell this beforehand? What I can say is this: Realmforge and Kalypso have put a lot of hard work and effort into Dungeons 2 to make it a fun and entertaining experience from the beginning to the end.
With the ability to venture into the Overworld and wreck heroes’ holdings, how does this change up the traditional Dungeon Keeper formula? What other benefits does this kind of expansion hold for players?
It doesn’t change the traditional formula; it takes it – literally – to the next level. And it brings more variety into the game. Now you are not only building your dungeon and recruiting monsters who are waiting to defend you. You take your army, step up to the overworld and conquer it! And while you are fighting somewhere on the overworld, some heroes might meanwhile attack you in your dungeon, what makes the game more exciting and challenging.
Benjamin Rauscher: In addition to everything said before the overworld allows us to build much more diverse and interesting levels both in respect to visual variety (we have deserts, woods, landscapes covered in snow, etc.) as well as in terms of gameplay variety.
How difficult was it to translate the RTS and management elements of Dungeons 2 to the PlayStation 4, especially with the limited options that a controller provides?
Benjamin Rauscher: We had to change controls and user interface quite fundamentally to make it work. And having two different control paradigms in the dungeon and the overworld didn’t help in this respect. So it took us quite some time to make the game work with controllers.
But on the other hand it worked much better than we expected – bearing in mind that there aren’t that many (if any?) dungeon management games or RTS games on PS4 …
"All patches for the PC version of the game have been integrated in the PS4 version, as well. In addition to that we significantly improved the performance of the game."
What improvements have been made to the core gameplay since last year’s PC release?
Benjamin Rauscher: All patches for the PC version of the game have been integrated in the PS4 version, as well. In addition to that we significantly improved the performance of the game. But we didn’t change any core gameplay features that hadn’t been touched by previous PC patches just for the console.
So Dungeons 2 plays exactly the same on PS4 compared to the latest PC version. Apart from having different controls and user interface, of course.
Will there be any new multiplayer modes with the PS4 release?
Dennis Blumenthal: There are no new multiplayer modes, no – but: With the PS4 version players get not only Dungeons 2, they get also the DLCs “Pixieville”, “Morningwood”, “A Chance of Dragons”, “A Song of Sand and Fire” and “A Clash of Pumpkins”. This brings new maps, new opponents and over 30 hours of additional gametime.
Was there a specific reason why you are only bringing this to one console (PS4) and not on the Xbox One?
Dennis Blumenthal: We love both of these great consoles and would have loved to see Dungeons 2 on Xbox One, but as our human and technical resources are limited, we wanted to focus on one console first to deliver the best possible experience for players. The decision whether to develop for Xbox One or for PS4 was a tough one, but as the PS4 is the more successful at this moment we chose the PS4.
Will the PS4 version run at 1080p and 60fps?
Dennis Blumenthal: 1080p yes, constant 60fps no.
How closely will the PS4 version stack up against the PC build in terms of visuals?
Benjamin Rauscher: Dungeons 2 is visually completely equivalent to the PC version of the game in all but one aspect: for performance reasons we had to remove grass planes in the overworld.
What does the future hold for the Dungeons franchise? Will there be a third game or something completely different but in the same genre?
Dennis Blumenthal: I could tell you, but then I would get fired. And I don’t like getting fired. Sorry.
Thanks for your time. Is there anything else you want to tell us before we let you go?
Dennis Blumenthal: Jet Fuel Can’t Melt Steel Beams.